THE decision on whether to allow a hugely controversial 100-home development in Hungerford is due this evening (Wednesday).
West Berkshire Council’s western area planning committee is set to rule on the application – and the case officer’s recommendation is to grant planning permission.
If that course is followed, it will generate anger among the approximately 250 residents who raised formal objections and will have defied the opinion of Hungerford Town Council, the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) group and the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
But a case officer’s report for the district council’s planning department states that “the need to avoid any further housing in the AONB... is clearly not sustainable.
“Indeed... in the western part of the AONB, new development will be focused on Hungerford as being the most sustainable location.”
The report goes on: “This is due to the good road links, the presence of the rail line, and the opportunities for employment, shopping and education in the town, being self-evident.
“The capacity for future growth on the edge of the town has been assessed, and this has consequently resulted in the allocation.”
In considering the allocation of future housing development, the officer states: “The historic character of the medieval burgage plots will be protected, as will the Kennet and Avon Canal, Portdown Common, Freemans Marsh, and the River Kennet itself.
“This, by definition, leaves little room elsewhere to allocate any substantial sites, other than the current site in question.”
The officer says that it is “noted” that Hungerford Town Council considers sufficient brownfield sites are, or will become, available in the future to accommodate a similar number of homes within the town’s confines.
But he adds: “The [district] council disagrees with this viewpoint in the light of no such large available sites coming forward.”
West Berkshire Council is under pressure to provide affordable homes and the provision of 40 at the site “is a substantial planning gain to be balanced in the permission [or otherwise] of this application”, the report notes.
The officer concedes that there will, in any event, be a traffic congestion issue by 2021 even without the proposed new homes and accepts that “this will be made even worse by the development... this could be considered as ‘severe’”.
But he goes on to suggest mitigation measures including diverting the A4 through Charnham Park.
District councillor James Podger’s (Con, Hungerford) objection is noted – although this is made on the grounds that the application is premature while the planning inspector is considering the future of housing in the town, rather than on any merits or disadvantages of the development itself.
His colleague Paul Hewer (Con, Hungerford) is a member of the committee which will determine the application and will make his views known on the night.
Check back with Newburytoday.co.uk on Thursday morning, April 6, for the result.